This Side of Jehenem

|

The Washington Post recently ran this front-page follow-up to the intentional massacre of 26 Baghdad children in mid-July. This appalling event was only the most recent such targeting of children by a malevolent jihadi; these murderers presumably believe that by killing themselves and those children standing too near an American, they gain martyrdom and the reward of paradise.

Yet in Arabic, the name of Hell itself is associated with the murder of children. Hell's most common name among Arabs is Jehenem, derived from the Valley of Gehena outside the walls of Jerusalem. In antiquity, this valley was an infamous place of ritual child sacrifice, and the horrors evoked by its name were long ago transferred to the concept of damnation.

In a sense it's quite appropriate that the name for Hell used by so many Muslims has such a root. One of the benefits of Islam's original spread was an end to the once-common pagan practice of infanticide, usually of girl infants, and most commonly by exposure. Jihadis today apparently see such things—children and murder, Heaven and Hell—differently.

Advertisement

NEXT: Dept. of Correction on I-Told-You-So Post

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Very interesting point. It would be nice if someone in the near future could work that into a speech being delivered in Arabic somewhere. An American audience could stand to know this too.

  2. On the other hand, the destruction of Zoroastrianism as a world religion is surely a huge net minus, no?

  3. And when you look through the other end of the mediascope:

    US forces kill human ‘shield’ child in Iraq

    US forces have shot dead a child which they say was being used as a human “shield” during an exchange of gunfire near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

    More than 20 people have also reportedly been killed in gun battles, drive-by shootings and suicide bombings elsewhere in the country.

    A statement said US forces came under attack as they were carrying out operations in Tal Afar, a volatile town west of Mosul that has seen frequent violence in recent months.

    “An Iraqi child was killed as terrorists and multi-national forces exchanged fire in northern Iraq,” the statement said.

    “Terrorists used Iraqi children as shields when multi-national forces returned fire. During the engagement, the child was killed.”

  4. I allways wondered, in Islam suicide is a sin, to die as a martyr is devine, therefore the defining point of a jihadist’s damnation or salvation would rest with wether he pressed the button or his enemy.

  5. What a pandora’s box we open when we wage an unnecessary war.

  6. What’s the matter, js, your Birkenstocks chafing today?

  7. I woke up a half hour ago, still pissed that I’m not in Iraq killing these motherfuckers. God, that’s annoying. Especially when I read about monstrosities like this. And just plain ridiculous when I read crap like this.

    Because I got high…
    Because I got high…
    Because I got hiiiiiiiiigh…

    (Even though I was never convicted of jack shiiiiiiit…)
    (The nosy bastards ask too many
    http://usmilitary.about.com/od/theorderlyroom/l/blsf86.htm“>quuuestions) (pdf question #24 a b c)

  8. Adam

    If you’re so all fired up to go, do what everyone else does with that question: LIE!

  9. In order to maintain the perception that some libertarians are anal retentive, here goes:

    That use of Gehenna is news to me. I was under the impression it was a garbage dump, where the fires would never end but the refuse (including those sentenced to die) would be destroyed. I see that there are Tanach and Old Testament verses referring to it as a place of ritual infant and child sacrifice to Baal.

  10. It is always this way with religious radicals. Of course they “betray” the prophet.

    Just like Bush, I mean, did you know that Bush’s messiah requires him to love and forgive his enemies? Or that Bush’s messiah tells him not to pray in public?

    Nobody betrays their gods faster than a “fundamentalist”, theirs or ours.

    If there is one thing Bush and the religious right and the modern Muslims believe in, it is betraying their own most sacred beliefs.

    It’s like an old joke, just recently Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders in Jerusalem came together and agreed on something….guess what it was?

    They all agreed that it is ok to hate gay folks.

    We kill children, they kill children, IDF kills children, the Palestinians kill children, the Brits killed children, the IRA killed children….on and on….

    and it’s against all “our” religions. But we (meaning homo sapiens) do seem to enjoy killing our children.

    I like this post, it really points to the absurdity of modern religions that betray themselves.

    Hey, isn’t one of the commandants that all the religions of the “Book” (Judea-Christian-Muslim) that you aren’t even supposed to kill in the first place?

    Funny, we want to post the commandants in court houses, just as long as we don’t have to pay any attention to them. Funny how they want to live under religious law in the ME, just as long as the leaders are exempt from Allah’s laws.

  11. What a pandora’s box we open when we wage an unnecessary war.

    I’m sure bin Laden agrees with you, from whatever cave he has been driven to this week.

  12. Comment by: – I’d like to think I’m above lying but the thought has crossed my mind. Unfortunately, I’m on record in the Cleveland Plain Dealer as a regular pothead, and any kind of interview – god forbid I should get promoted – with any of my friends, enemies or acquaintances would get me a swift kick in the ass out the door.

  13. I was under the impression it was a garbage dump, where the fires would never end but the refuse (including those sentenced to die) would be destroyed.

    The two are connected. To make sure the worship to Baal was disrupted in the Jerusalem area forever, the city fathers under David designated the ritual slaughter/worship area of Baal a garbage incinerator pit.

    Sorta like making Mecca into a nuclear storage facility.

  14. RC-

    Osama is in hiding because of the war against non-existant Iraqi WMDs? I thought that was Afghanistan.

  15. Born Again Iconoclast – You’re right, Rumsfeld’s right, and Powell (and Shinseki) were wrong about troop strength – we’ve got plenty of people over there – but I’ve been a hawk from Day 1, I’m not afraid to put my ass where my mouth is, and I’m sure there’s at least one guy or gal over there who wouldn’t mind being home with his or her family and kids. I’ve been to the recruiter’s office, volunteered to go, and got the “woah-oh-oh no way, you’re a Bad American!”

  16. Jennifer – and I thought Osama was hiding because we routed his support network in Afghanistan after he launched an unneccessary war on us. No matter how many times people remind you, you seem to insist on forgetting about that.

  17. Uh, no, Adam, I already said Afghanistan is why Osama’s in hiding–it’s Iraq that was an unnecessary war based upon lies. But no matter how many times people remind you, you seem to insist on forgetting about that.

  18. Somebody remind me, who was killing children in Iraq for accepting school supplies in February 2002?

    If you kick open my front door, BAI, and a bunch of thugs walk in and steal my stuff, you’re as bad as they are. They did it, buy you made it happen.

  19. Really Adam? Well, I guess that means they aren’t blowing up any subway trains? I don’t know, last I heard we were so busy in Iraq, Osama and the Taliban were doing just fine.

    And you may think that Osama is on the ropes, but he still has 90% percent of the ruling family and judges in Saudi Arabia still supporting him, both with cold hard cash and religious support.

  20. We’ve clearly got enough troops over there.

    That’s why we were able to so effectively maintain order, secure weapons caches, and seal the borders from infiltrating jihadis.

  21. “This is the kind of thing you never hear about from the anti-Bush crowd, in their zeal to say how wrong the war was etc.”

    Well, I voted for Bush, but in spite of rather than because of his position on the war, which I continue to think was a tar baby that he was way too quick to grab hold of. But even if invading Iraq in the first place was a big mistake, it’s water over the dam now, and there can be few more noble causes than killing the insurgents who pull this kind of shit. Whenever people talk about how many Iraqi civilians we’ve accidentally killed, it would be instructive to get some numbers on how many the insurgents have deliberately killed. They pull off a London-style bombing every couple of days.

  22. What the fuck?

    Moorlock,
    You want to equate collateral damage in a war to purposefully killing kids because they would associate with the infidel? Its not the fucking same I don’t think. I think that they would do such a thing is almost reason enough in my book to do war with them.

    General Jennifer
    thinks that we could do war with the Islamic extremists with Iraq as unfinished buisness. Where it would be fine to take away stonage Afghanistan from the enemy as a staging and training area, but leaving them with the wealth and material to use in Iraq as a training ground wouldn’t hurt us at all.

    I of course dissagree with Jennifer, so I am glad it went this way. I think if we had left Iraq in any stage the war would be going a lot worse for us right now.

  23. Joe,
    How many troops do you think it would take to seal that border, pray tell?

  24. Kwais-
    I’m just saying that in a war against Islamic extremism, a secular Islamic country is a stupid target. Likewise, if a bunch of extremist Christian Protestants start terrorizing people, I don’t think that we should invade the Vatican, even if the Vatican residents DO have the same skin color and Messiah as the terrorists.

  25. “…there can be few more noble causes than killing the insurgents who pull this kind of shit”

    How about allowing Iraqis to live in peace? The two may have some overlap, but it seems that the more people we kill in Iraq – admittedly, baddies – the more innocent Iraqis get slaughtered.

    It seems that whenever there is some kind of conflict in the Middle East, the right is more interested in declaring our side to be morally justified, than in actually achieving a positive outcome.

    For example, “That missile the Israelis fired killed 26 innocent people.” “Yeah, but that Hamas guy they were aiming at really had it coming.”

    Well, yes, he probably did, but that’s not really the point.

  26. kwais,

    Damned if I know. Lots.

  27. Jen,
    I don’t really care too much about skin color. I am just thinking about the AQ training centers that moved to Iraq right after we invaded Afghanistan. That Zarkawi and his friends.

  28. “Damned if I know. Lots.”

    Yeah, I don’t think we have that many.

  29. Mm Hmm. And Iraqi agents bombed the WTC the first time, too.

    “No collaborative relationship” – 9/11 Report.

  30. Kwais-
    The terrorists were only in those parts of Iraq Saddam did NOT control, due to the no-fly zones. Should other countries invade the US, because of the Aryan Nations terrorists we’ve got out in Idaho and Montana? Should it be said “The US provides a haven for white supremacist terrorists?”

  31. The one thing about incidents like this, is, I think that they are really turning the Iraqi public against the insurgents.

    I know that Joe and Hakluyt will tell me how my perception is just wishfull thinking and that the war is getting worse.

    Just about a couple of weeks ago some bad guys set up a mortar in a square in a Sunni neighborhood, that used to be one of their friendly areas. And they got shot at by the people in the neighborhood, that are tired of their shit. I wrote before in one of the threads that one of the police stations in Baghgdad got assaulted a month or so ago, and the local residents came to their assistance.

    I remember we used to get shelled every day, sometimes three or four times a day. In the last four months I think we have only been shelled three times.

    A couple of things about that. One may be that their tactics are changeing because when the send of a mortar we can track it back to its origin. So they have resorted more to car bombs. And though mortars have gone down, car bombs have gone up. And they never got the hang of aiming mortars.

    Also, where some areas get better, other areas get worse.

  32. Jen,
    They operated and trained in the no fly zones. But they came in through the Saddam controlled zones, and they were very likely bankrolled, and provided with equipment by Saddam.

  33. Should other countries invade the US, because of the Aryan Nations terrorists we’ve got out in Idaho and Montana?

    If those terrorists knock down an office building full of innocents and the American regime in DC refuses to turn over the baddies, the other countries would be wise to invade and clean up the mess in Idaho.

  34. Kwais-
    But that doesn’t answer the question about the terrorists the US “harbors.” Hell, some of them, like McVeigh, were trained by our own military! Others collect welfare benefits–our own government, funding terrorists! So by the same standards you use to justify our invasion of Iraq, wouldn’t a powerful, primarily black country be justified in invading us because of all the anti-black terrorists we’ve got here?

  35. Actually, kwais, you’ll get no argument from me on that observation.

    Twba,

    That description perfectly captures the invasion of Afhanistan. However, Jennifer was commenting on invading Iraq.

    So, when we’re 2/3 of the way done with cleaning up Idaho, would it be a good idea to pull a bunch of troops out to take over Mexico?

  36. You want to equate collateral damage in a war to purposefully killing kids

    Calling it “collateral damage” will not bring the kid to life. You can play with words any way you want, but the fact remains that they shot and killed a child.

    Chalres, since when US politicians care about Iraqi children?

    “60 Minutes”, May 12, 1996:
    Lesley Stahl, speaking of US sanctions against Iraq:
    “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And — and you know, is the price worth it?”
    Madeleine Albright: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.”

  37. “So by the same standards you use to justify our invasion of Iraq, wouldn’t a powerful, primarily black country be justified in invading us because of all the anti-black terrorists we’ve got here?”

    Is there an award for dumbest comment posted in any given thread?

  38. Jf-
    I’m just pointing out that our government has just as much control over our Aryan terrorists as Saddam had over Iraq’s Muslim ones.

  39. Jennifer,
    When our Aryan supremacists start blowing up stuff in Africa, and our government not only doesn’t act to shut them down,but funds and trains them, then your analogy will fit.

    Gotta go to work. Got to work tonight.


  40. The one thing about incidents like this, is, I think that they are really turning the Iraqi public against the insurgents.

    It really is a matter of perception isn’t it? If enough preachers, err propagandaists in Iraq go around telling the sheeple that it’s the westerners that are causing all this, who are they more likely to believe? their own people or the strangers?

    We just need a far bigger propaganda campaign in Iraq – sure it would be easier if more Iraqis had televisions and the like to get the message out, but seriously, the damn place is one bungle after another. This really isn’t the type of war one could hope for. If it were about our survival, we’d see technological and human innovation pushed to the limits on our side making great strides towards accomplishing our goals. Unfortunately, we’re seeing a lot of that on the other side and not so much on ours. It’s very disappointing.

  41. “have the same skin color and Messiah as the terrorists”

    Oh, stop it already. Disagree all you want with Bush’s strategy (or lack there of), but let’s not pretend anyone actually believes that.

  42. We kill children, they kill children, IDF kills children, the Palestinians kill children, the Brits killed children, the IRA killed children….on and on….

    agreed, mr skeptikos. there is a cultural rationale at work on both sides whihc is remarkably similar.

    You want to equate collateral damage in a war to purposefully killing kids because they would associate with the infidel?

    mr kwais, that you think killing innocents in one way is better somehow than killing them in another is a very revealing statement to your pathetic amorality.

    innocents wind up dead either way. there is zero difference to them. the only difference is that one way, the advance of your ideology is retarded — the other, it is forwarded.

    you endorse killing anonymous innocents to forward your values. congratulations. you are the bankruptcy of western civilization.

  43. That may be the most righteous smackdown I’ve ever seen you deliver, gaius. I would offer you a high-five, but that would be a sign of cultural degeneracy.

  44. Wellfellow–

    So you think our invading Iraq on false premises had NOTHING to do with the fact that it was an Arab country whose residents said “Allah” when they mean “God?”

  45. I think that they are really turning the Iraqi public against the insurgents.

    i’m sure they are, mr kwais, at least some of them. unfortunately, that doesn’t turn them toward us. and it doesn’t make what we’ve wrought in iraq any less another american suicide attempt.

  46. Gaius,

    Before you go calling kwais immoral for thinking the manner in which a person is killed determines the morality of the act, just remember that “collateral damage” is a term for “accident.” I would hope that no one would purposely kill a child in any situation, but the shitty thing about this war is that the accidents that kill children (while going after legit targets) are all unnecessary.

  47. “mr kwais, that you think killing innocents in one way is better somehow than killing them in another is a very revealing statement to your pathetic amorality.”

    Really, Gaius? Killing by accident is the same as by intention? Pathetic amorality indeed! I suppose malpractice is no different, morally, than deliberately prescribing poison?

    “you endorse killing anonymous innocents ”

    Did he?

  48. remember that “collateral damage” is a term for “accident.”

    dropping 500-pound bombs into city blocks is not an accident, mr carter.

    neither is invading a country halfway around the world without a material reason.

  49. “You want to equate collateral damage in a war to purposefully killing kids”

    ‘Before you go calling kwais immoral for thinking the manner in which a person is killed determines the morality of the act, just remember that “collateral damage” is a term for “accident.”‘

    I repeat, “It seems that whenever there is some kind of conflict in the Middle East, the right is more interested in declaring our side to be morally justified, than in actually achieving a positive outcome.

    For example, “That missile the Israelis fired killed 26 innocent people.” “Yeah, but that Hamas guy they were aiming at really had it coming.”

    Well, yes, he probably did, but that’s not really the point.”

    Yes, our intentions are more noble than those of Zawahiri. I suppose this matters very much on the day you meet Saint Peter, but here on the ground, that and 50 cents will get you a pack of lifesavers.

  50. gaius marius…thanx.

    kwais,

    Robert Novak, the conservative, was kind enough to let us in on the secret that the Bushies began planning the Iraq war on the eve of the first inaugaration, long before 9/11. And many, many conservatives have pointed out that they bushies wanted to go to Iraq before even going after Bin Laden…you keep telling yourself that this isn’t a crusade, I’m sure that will help you believe it, but it won’t make it objectively true.

    Me personally, I think Bushie von Bushie kinda likes Osama,they have a lot in common. Belief in theocracy.

    That’s why I like the news that they are going to use the Iraqi constitution to build us another anit-us muslim country. Hurrah for our side. More religious governments.

  51. Jennifer, I really don’t. There are a lot of Arab countries that refer to God as “Allah.”

  52. wellfellow,

    I have a number of military friends. Many of them fine and noble men and women.

    Many of them however joined to gut them some sand-n*****s. If you don’t know this, I am amazed.

  53. Killing by accident is the same as by intention?

    same to the dead innocent, isn’t it, mr wellfellow? the identical net effect.

    kant may have decided that intent is the arbiter of morality, but he lived in a world before “collateral damage” became a euphemism for “murdering people who are too close to the target and not valuable enough to keep from getting the target”.

    you want pragmatism? you want reality? you want reason? it isn’t in kant, my friend.

  54. So let’s see, the continuing campaign of Islamist terror in Iraq turns the Iraqi public against Islamists, and also convinces them that Americans and a democratic Iraqi government are incapable of protecting them from those Islamists.

    If the Tikritis start a political campaign premised on the need for a strongman to keep order, what % of the Iraqi public do you think would find that argument convincing?

  55. Skeptikos,

    That may be the case for those people. Some people are bad people.

  56. Wellfellow–
    True, but none of those Arab countries had leaders whom Bush talked about wanting to “get” even before 9-11 happened.

  57. Gaius,

    “same to the dead innocent, isn’t it, mr wellfellow? the identical net effect.”

    And that is how you judge morality? By net effect? That’s really bizarre. A poor driver is as morally culpable as a murderer? An ignorant doctor is as morally culpable as Jack the Ripper? If I want pragmatism, I’ll understand why a rational justice system distinguishes between types of murder.

  58. Gaius and Joe,

    I think you misunderstood me – I’m not shilling for anyone, and I don’t think we should be in this nasty mess. I’m just saying that there is a difference between an accident and a murder. This is why we have 2 different crimes: manslaughter, and murder. I think it’s a little over the top to say that the army is gunning/bombing for little kids. But maybe, I’m wrong, I don’t know, I’m not there.

  59. Jennifer,

    So it’s not just because of the skin color and common God? That’s my point.

  60. Just browsing the comments, but it seems to me that several people are dangerously close to arguing that no action can ever be taken against a hostage taker because an errant shot could kill the hostage. Hostage takers always get what they want. Big picture, I just don’t know if that is a good place to be.

  61. wellfellow,

    a poor driver (for instance one with bad nightvision who still insists on driving at night) is very culpable, as is an ignorant doctor who presents himself otherwise, yes.

    Islamic mulahs who advocate the killing of innocents are also culpable, as are writers named Anne who advocate blowing up the NYT.

  62. True, Wellfellow. I misspoke. After all, if it were merely skin-color and God-name, we’d’ve invaded Saudi Arabia, since they’re not only dark-complexioned Wahhabi extremists, they were actually the ones behind 9-11, and funding the madrassas where Al-Qaeda guys train!

  63. Skeptikos,

    Fair enough, however,

    “as is an ignorant doctor who presents himself otherwise, yes”

    Unless he’s omniscient, this describes every doctor. This is why we have the word ‘accident’ in our vocabulary.

  64. Jennifer,

    Agreed!

  65. Did he?

    mr wellfellow, to say that he didn’t — and let’s not pick on poor old mr kwais, for there are millions just like him — you have to believe that this war was started without foreknowledge that many thousands of innocent bystanders would be put to the sword.

    that simply isn’t so. we know that our method of warfare — which hides expensive american soldiers by flattening whole cities under bombs with only minor consideration of their occupants — is designed SPECIFICALLY to increase civilian casualties in an effort to save american military casualties. the entire path of our military technological development since the first world war has been to hone that point. and the purpose is betrayed by the fact that we don’t even try to count civilian casualties — for they are irrelevant to the design, and disturbing reminders of our moral vapidity.

    if we did count, i think we would quickly find that the postmodern american war machine murders more innocents per military casualty than any prior incarnation of militarism in human history. it is, after all, immensely efficient, in accordance with its industrial lines of construction.

    that is a very black indictment of how we have evolved in the west, but it is nonetheless as honest i can manage to be. the minor mitigations we put forward to clothe the reaper in white — “we really try not to hit them”, et al — are pathetic rationalizations to assuage our guilt at the purposeful design of civilian murder we have produced.

  66. Without getting into all the policy issues of our presence in Iraq, I’ve just got to comment on some of the rhetoric that’s flying around here.

    1. Participating in an activity that may cause the accidental death of children is not morally different than killing the children deliberately.

    2. People who operate automobiles in the U.S. precipitate accidents. These accidents occur regularly and in some cases kill children.

    Conclusion: The moment you turn that ignition key, you’re no better than the Jihadists.

    Conclusion: Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta should be prosecuted as a war criminal for allowing the Freeway System to continue.

    Conclusion: Ted Kazynski got a bum rap and should be pardoned immediately. Sure, he bombed a few people, but at least he lived in the woods and rode a bicycle …

    πŸ˜‰

  67. Jason, I don’t know if you’re looking my way, but I’m arguing against simplistic reductionism, not in favor of it. The proposition was put forth that it doesn’t matter if our actions kill lots of innocents, because we didn’t do so on purpose.

    gaius, I don’t think you have a very good grasp of modern military tactics. Our military uses small smart bombs – sometimes, concrete rounds with no explosives – instead of area bombing for the purpose of avoiding civilian casualties. The Marines evacuated the population of Falluja before levelling it. Why do you think they do the dangerous room-to-room fighting, instead of levelling buildings?

    You raise a lot of good points about the inevitability of civilian casualties, but you’re just plain wrong on this one.

  68. And that is how you judge morality?

    i am saying, mr wellfellow — that our individual moral conceptions of events are not a matter of physical fact.

    beyond what i said above about what our true intent really is as evidenced by the pattern of construction of our military machinery — that morality ajudged in the moment by the individual without the exegesis of tradition is useless. people are weak, irrational, stupid and animal. “intent” is nothing, not a thing, not divinable and not observable, and to believe that you or i as people can look at what is going on in iraq and divine from each bullet a rational inner purpose is ludicrous. we will see in events what makes us feel in whichever way we wish. is that useful?

    this is why the abandonment of accumulated wisdom in the modern age is so damaging. we have replaced the moral law of a hellenic christian church with statistical modeling and kantian personal-intent-divination/rationalization. this invites the most amoral sort of destruction.

  69. I can’t tell how astonished I am to see gaius toss overboard one of the keystones of classical ethics and philosophy – the idea that the moral/ethical status of an action is related to the intentions behind the action. Makes me wonder how deep his fealty to classical values really runs.

    Still, I suppose any stick will do to beat Bush.

  70. Gaius,

    If I’m juggling on top of a roof and I drop a ball, it falls and lands on your head and you die, it’s an accident. It’s asinine to claim that intention doesn’t matter. Regardless of the kantian personal-intent-divination/rationalization hoozimawhatsis that’s involved.

  71. And let me also say how disturbed I am to agree with joe twice in as many days. At this rate, I’ll probably be stuffing ballot boxes for Hillary! in 2008.

  72. I’ll probably be stuffing ballot boxes for Hillary! in 2008.

    Oh, God, no.

  73. Just to give a flavor of the classical take on the importance of intention: I believe Aristotle is credited with stating that “the intention makes the crime.”

    Say it ain’t so, gaius.

  74. Pat Benetar was right. Hell is for children.

  75. “‘…there can be few more noble causes than killing the insurgents who pull this kind of shit’

    “How about allowing Iraqis to live in peace?”

    That would be nice, but you’re deluding yourself if you think that if we leave Iraq it will suddenly become peaceful. There will be a nasty civil war between Sunnis and Shiites (with maybe the Kurds staking out a third position) that will make the 1973-75 denoument of the Vietnam War look like a romp in the park. We broke it; we have the responsibility to buy it.

  76. Our military uses small smart bombs – sometimes, concrete rounds with no explosives – instead of area bombing for the purpose of avoiding civilian casualties.

    does that make you sleep better at night, mr joe, over the fact that we’ve killed tens of thousands — no one even knows the number because no one bothered to *try* to count — in iraq while losing exactly 1,779 american soldiers? that’s a ratio of at least 10:1, possibly more, possibly much more.

    the napoleonic wars were reknown for their utter brutality, in stark contrast to the “gentlemens’ wars” of the 17th c. there were likely some 2.5mm military casualties over the 16 years (1799-1815), and civilian casualties of around 1 million. two and a half professionals for every civilian.

    the first world war: 15mm professionals, ~9mm civilians — 1.6 soldiers per civilian.

    the second world war: 19mm military, ~20mm civilian (excluding german concentration camps and the sino-japanese conflict) — about 1:1.

    american phase of the vietnam war: 940k military on all sides, ~1mm civilians.

    teh advance of military technology is decidedly not the advance of morality, mr joe.

  77. Joe,

    Credit goes where credit is due. gaius marius made himself look extremely uninformed in his ridiculous and factually incorrect rant against American military procedures vis a vis civilian casualties. I expected him to get called on it; that it was you, somebody who generally agrees with his political mindset, is a testament to your honesty and intellectual integrity. If more Democrats (I am assuming that you tend that way based on your writings- if I am mistaken, my apologies) had that same willingness to be honest in regards to their brethren’s overheated rhetoric, then they might become competitive again.

  78. the idea that the moral/ethical status of an action is related to the intentions behind the action.

    typically shallow reading, mr dean.

    i would gladly toss aside unguided individual moral judgment — it’s all but useless. it has allowed many like you, for example, to essentially claim that iraq will be a “good thing” regardless of how many are put to death because the principle is right. it allowed the german people to justify any manner of unspeakable atrocity because the principle — the struggle for national freiheit — was right. people unguided by tradition and law are animals, and prove it at every step.

    it is only if they are conditioned by tradition, law and philosophy that they develop a moral framework which can be considered meaningful.

    I believe Aristotle is credited with stating that “the intention makes the crime.”

    aristotle said many things, but it is important to contextualize him. he spoke as a participant in the bankruptcy of the classical age, a time of greek political collapse, tyranny, apathy and lawlessness, totally corrupted by antisocial selfish individualism, itself cut loose from the orphic wisdom and traditions that had overseen its growth and flowering.

    aristotle’s ethics are a brutal, dark, selfish and machiavellian interpretation of life and its meaning as an exercise in narcissism. if you want to cite him as your advocate, you should know that.

    If I’m juggling on top of a roof and I drop a ball, it falls and lands on your head and you die, it’s an accident.

    and you’re going to jail, mr carter. πŸ™‚ can you see how manslaughter is a holdover from a time when the kantian ideology of personal morality mattered less than the social morality of law?

  79. gaius marius made himself look extremely uninformed in his ridiculous and factually incorrect rant against American military procedures vis a vis civilian casualties

    it’s quite painful to recognize the bankruptcy of our society for the first time. i expect a lot of people who haven’t considered what we are in the context of civilizational history will find it shocking and angering, mr swede.

  80. gaius marius,

    You exclude a lot of reasons for a lower American military death rate during this war. You automatically seem to think that the only reason the American military is not suffering deaths at the same rate as in previous conflicts is because of some evil intent on ourpart. Not so. Other factors which contribute to our soldiers survival rate include: better body armor, better medical treatment (including battlefield technologies unheard of even in the Gulf War- this includes powders which clot the bllod flow in fresh wounds so soldiers don’t blled to death), better training, having a professional all volunteer force rather than relying on draftees, better weapons, and and more remote weaponry and military tools which allow more soldiers to do what they have to do without putting themselves in direct harm’s way. There, gaius, are just a few reasons why the ratio might be higher this time around.
    One more point, gaius. Many Iraqi civilian deaths have come at the hands of the insurgents/terrorists, not our military. I would say that that is an important thing to remeber before you post again on this issue.

  81. Why are you excluding sino and german atrocities against civilians?

    They came to war from the western tradition as well as the US.

  82. only because, mr curious, i don’t think those examples demonstrate the western method of warfare, even as they may reflect a decline of general morality.

  83. Gaius,

    You repeatedly assert that intent is meaningless, yet you accept it in your own premise. Example:

    “that is a very black indictment of how we have evolved in the west”

    Not so, according to your morality, it is no more black than the engineer who miscalculates when designing a bridge should it collapse and cause death. Should the body count be equal, a society that builds poor structures is as morally bankrupt as the society the builds war machines? Just how do you describe this decadence, then? We are as amoral as those primitive tribes that have yet to discover medicine and so cause the death of countless? Truly bizarre, Gaius. Due to poor living conditions, insufficient medicine, poor hygiene,(all forms of ignorance) etc. it seems the glory days of the ‘gentleman’s wars’ were quite decadent. After all, many died and that is your metric.

  84. Gaius,

    You repeatedly assert that intent is meaningless, yet you accept it in your own premise. Example:

    “that is a very black indictment of how we have evolved in the west”

    Not so, according to your morality, it is no more black than the engineer who miscalculates when designing a bridge should it collapse and cause death. Should the body count be equal, a society that builds poor structures is as morally bankrupt as the society the builds war machines? Just how do you describe this decadence, then? We are as amoral as those primitive tribes that have yet to discover medicine and so cause the death of countless. Truly bizarre, Gaius. Due to poor living conditions, insufficient medicine, poor hygiene,ie. any form of ignorance, it seems the glory days of the gentleman’s wars killed even more people. How decadent! After all, as intent never matters, ignorance is no excuse.

  85. The commandment “Thou shallt not kill” in the Ten Commandments forgets that “your neighbor” needs to be stuck on the end. “Your neighbor” means those in your group.

    In 1966, Israeli psychologist Georges Tamarin questioned 1066 schoolchildren ages eight to fourteen about Joshua’s destruction of, and killing ALL living things in, Jericho. When given a choice among total approval, partial approval or disapproval, or total disapproval, 66 percent chose total approval and 26 percent chose total disapproval. However, when “General Lin” was substituted for “Joshua” and “a Chinese kingdom 3,000 years ago” for Israel he found only 7 percent (of a different group of children) totally approved and 75 percent totally disapproved.

    My point is that it is part of human nature to dehumanize competitors, and remove the strong sanctions societies have against extreme selfishness. And Mr. Marius’s statement that without traditions and law people are animals seems to me to be incomplete. I would say that people are animals even with traditions and laws. Germany and Japan acted completely consistently with their traditions and laws when they attempted to destroy Jews and Nanking, respectively.

    Also, Mr. Marius, if you want to play statistical games about more civilian deaths per military deaths, when the military deaths go down, but the civilian deaths don’t go down as much, wouldn’t that produce the same effect? We can also play another game of comparing percentage of civilians killed in a given area over different wars. We can also arguably include the deaths of conscripts in the military as “civilian” because they wouldn’t have been deaths if they hadn’t been drafted. I would strongly suspect those considerations would change your ratios.

  86. Oops! Sorry for the double post, all!

  87. can you see how manslaughter is a holdover …

    American law has several levels of culpability … not that it’s the last word in morality, but it might be a basis to add a little structure to this discussion. American courts perceive four categories of culpability, of which I give you extremely oversimplified explanations:

    Accident: A reasonable person would not have foreseen that the victim would get hurt. The court does not punish you.

    Negligence: You didn’t mean to hurt the victim, but you should have been more careful. The court won’t impose criminal charges, but the victim’s family can sue you civilly.

    Recklessness: You didn’t mean to harm the specific victim, but you were doing something dangerous and clearly didn’t care whether anyone got hurt. You can receive lower-level criminal penalties – if the victim died, you are guilty of manslaughter, but not murder.

    Intentional: You meant to hurt the victim, and you did. Full criminal penalties apply – for a death, murder.

    Let’s all agree that warfare by definition involves intentional murder of enemy soldiers, that nobody has managed to very successfully apply this civil standard to warfare yet, that I’ve missed all sorts of valid doctrines like self-defense and strict liability, and that I have no idea what Aristotle would have said about late-term abortion.

    But maybe if we specify where we think various US, Iraqi, and insurgent actions fall in this continuum we will have a bit clearer discussion than just arguing “it’s all intentional” vs. “it’s all an accident.”

  88. gaius:

    You have possibly the most absurd analysis of the evolution of military power in the west I’ve ever seen. No offense, but it is not a reflection of the evolution of the west or the west’s decadence that certain cultures choose to fight in such a way as to maximize civilian casualties on their own side. The armor being employed isn’t kevlar, it is diapers on their own children.

    Again, once this tactic is employed, you are looking at a hostage situation. There are only so many outcomes to a hostage situation. I am not sure that pre kantian ethics tells you much about what to do. If you always capitulate to demands, you expand the incidence of hostage taking. Perhaps people have largely abandoned hellenic ethics because they failed to serve as reliable standards given certain criteria.

  89. gaius:

    You have possibly the most absurd analysis of the evolution of military power in the west I’ve ever seen. No offense, but it is not a reflection of the evolution of the west or the west’s decadence that certain cultures choose to fight in such a way as to maximize civilian casualties on their own side. The armor being employed isn’t kevlar, it is diapers on their own children.

    Again, once this tactic is employed, you are looking at a hostage situation. There are only so many outcomes to a hostage situation. I am not sure that pre kantian ethics tells you much about what to do. If you always capitulate to demands, you expand the incidence of hostage taking. Perhaps people have largely abandoned hellenic ethics because they failed to serve as reliable standards given certain criteria.

  90. choose to fight in such a way as to maximize civilian casualties on their own side.

    don’t confuse what their militant martyrs do and what we do, mr ligon. i’m talking about our military design. i wouldn’t testify to the health of islamic civilization, which is largely over. but if you think that every iraqi casualty was an innocent babe being held as a shiled by a bad guy, you’ve lost connection with what industrial warfare is.

  91. You repeatedly assert that intent is meaningless

    mr wellfellow, that would be not my view but the view of a strict empiricist. we can entertain ideas, can we not, without adopting them? πŸ™‚

    it is perhaps in this discussion that we see how far the west has gone from where it was. there was indeed a period of western development that eschewed inner motive as indiscernable and irrelevant to moral action, where morality was evidenciary and a social standard and not a personal intuition. it is why kant was revolutionary — prior to his work (and its widespread adoption in the west), good works socially-defined were seen as the standard of morality, not good intentions self-ajudged.

    my view happens to be that

    i would gladly toss aside unguided individual moral judgment … it is only if [people] are conditioned by tradition, law and philosophy that they develop a moral framework which can be considered meaningful.

    we live in an age which is very much the former and not the latter, which answers

    Just how do you describe this decadence, then?

  92. Gaius, I’ll push you a little bit here with a situation in which intent determines the morality of an action:

    Man A knows Man C is allergic to lobster. Man A hates Man C, and orders him Lobster Egg Foo Young and tells Man C, “You gotta try this, it’s sooo good. Just try it, then I’ll tell you what it is.” Man C tries it, puffs up like a horrible fleshy beach ball and dies.

    Man B does not know Man C is allergic to lobster. In fact, Man B thinks lobster is soooo delicious that he orders an extra large Lobster Egg Foo Young for Man C, brings it home, and says, “You gotta try this, it’s sooo good.” Man C tries it, and you know the rest.

    Is Man B a murderer? Is he a better or worse person, morally, than Man A?

  93. Randolph, clearly person A is the manifestation of post-modern perverse Neitzchian uber-hubris born of the relativistic German romantic period, where as person B is merely a product of the defunkt culture of techne as God and the Religion of Science who can hardly be blamed for his imposition of the decadent western value system he knew since birth. The past 500 years should answer your question sufficiently. πŸ˜‰

    Gaius, I kid! You make a good point, however, even if I except what you’re saying in your last post, I’d argue that tradition, law and philosophy clearly take into account one’s intention.

    I’m starting to think that Kant is your straw man, because I don’t think anyone here is claiming that “unguided” or “self-adjudged” individual morality should be the measure of right and wrong. As in the examples provided by myself and Randolph, intention is indeed something that can be determined. This is why we have courts of law and degrees of culpability, as Vynnie pointed out.

    Now, I suppose that arguement is for the empiricist.

    If your suggestion is to look at culpability within a given context of tradition, law and philosophy, then I stand by my statement that deliberately targeting a child is infinitely more horrid than accidentally killing one.

  94. Jason Ligon has a great hostage taking analogy there.

    Gaius,
    You misrepresent the military. Name a city that we have flattened to save military lives.

    Your point seems to be that a low level of military deaths on our side is a bad thing. If more US military died to even the ratio would that make you happier.

    Lastly, the US military goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties, even to the extent of harming their cause. Never do we allow more civilian casualties (we did in WW2, but not now) to help us win the war.

    Hell we even aviod killing enemy whenever we can. One of the criticisms of the way the war was handled is that we went too far trying to avoid killing Saddams soldiers, and they are the ones causing problems now.

  95. Wellfellow,

    I should have realized in my reading of King Heffelweizer in the Court of Duchy that this very lobster case has actually occured, and the noble, community-centered King who had been served the dread shellfish (after a shot from an epi-pen) properly and ruthlessly slaughtered both men because they did not realize thier proper place in the social order.

  96. and before anyone says anything, shut up. Happy hour began early today.

  97. man c is dead. man a and man b are both going to prison.

    i would say that this is right — as there is no real situation in which we know that man a and man b had different reasons to kill man c. “intent” is not perfectly divinable, and never will be.

    the institution of western law has gone a long way in differentiating criminal intent (evil plans) from simple intent (responsibility). in the hypothetical, man a has criminal intent, man b only simple intent — but in reality, it is exceedingly difficult to know which of the two, or both or neither, have criminal intent. so both are punished because both are immediately responsible. and if criminal intent can be divined by confession or some other means, then man a gets his heavier sentence.

    does the bush administration have criminal intent in starting the iraq war? as an empiricist, i don’t know and it doesn’t matter. they should be punished, because they started a war which was not a demonstrable response to anything material. and i suspect the reason they lied about wmd and actual 9/11 connections is because they knew they lacked an material event or condition to which it could be a demonstrable response.

    does it matter if they genuinely believed that there were wmd and 9/11 connections? no. they went in and there were no such conditions. and they should be punished despite intentions because it puts a heavy social incentive on all parties to act with reasonable moral restraint. if we later find criminal intent, then we can increase the sentence.

    what i will *not* assent to is this notion of personal moral intent which says that, if man b did not intend to kill man c, if in fact he had only the best intentions, he is not culpable for the devastation wrought of his actions. it removes the impetus for sensible moderation that is part and parcel to moral behavior, making morality not about society, the victims and the act but about the individual, the perpetrator and his frame of mind.

  98. I’m not saying he’s culpable, gaius, just less culpable. shorter sentence.

  99. NOT culpable. gawd!

  100. You misrepresent the military.

    mr kwais, the military is corporate murder. it’s hard to misrepresent that. there’s utterly nothing moral or virtuous about killing.

    Name a city that we have flattened to save military lives.

    how about hiroshima? or nagasaki? or tokyo? or berlin? or dresden? or countless others? we flattned those cities to the ground along with millions of innocents to save american soldiers’ lives. and the tendency now is to believe that this was the right thing to do, and that the more we do that the better off we are — that not only will it save our expensive soldiers from having to die, but that such places and peoples are economic engines that benefit the enemy and are therefore legitimate targets.

    which is about as amoral as one can get.

    the US military goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties, even to the extent of harming their cause.

    oh, yes, many platitudes about “limiting collateral damage”. never mind that the entire engine of total warfare is so perfectly designed to kill indiscriminately that, even trying to prevent civilian deaths, we chalk up record ratios of civilian:professional with every new war.

    you’re deluding yourself, mr kwais, if you can’t see how warfare changed in the last two hundred years from something like the sport of royalty to the consumer of worlds.

  101. Gaius,

    I will say that the “sport of royalty” consisted of a great deal of brutal slaughter, disease, burned cities, and raped women. Especially in the New World. Total war is nothing new, it started in Carthage during the Punic Wars. We just have shinier toys now.

    I fear I may have tread too deep into Gaius’ home territory…

    p.s. don’t take any of what I just said as a justification for what is going on with military forces in Iraq and around the world. I’m just saying our civilization isn’t uniquely evil.

  102. dammit once again, trod, not tread.

  103. jf,

    Is there an award for dumbest comment posted in any given thread?

    These awards best given on the spot as the need arises. You just gave the first. But help me now, I’m not sure really not sure how to catagorize this one.

    You can play with words any way you want, but the fact remains that they shot and killed a child.

    No mention of the “insurgent” animals who deliberately used children for shields….now this would be a deserving target of gauis’ diatribe. But no, that isn’t gauis’ target.

    Instead, this gets “The Most Pathetic Thing gauis marius Ever Said” Award.

    mr kwais, that you think killing innocents in one way is better somehow than killing them in another is a very revealing statement to your pathetic amorality.

    And after this

    that is a very black indictment of how we have evolved in the west, but it is nonetheless as honest i can manage to be.

    I won’t even try to guess what mental malady afflicts gaius marius. But it seems to involve some sort of philosphical delusions. Unfortunately, we’ve spent so much on the war in Iraq that they probably had to shut the mental institutions down.

    Sadly enough, this means gauis marius will be left to wander the streets. Let’s just hope it isn’t contagious.

    joe,

    How about allowing Iraqis to live in peace?

    You mean they lived in peace before we got there? Get a grip. This isn’t even the core of the problem anymore.

    Metalgrid,

    It really is a matter of perception isn’t it?

    Perhaps. But you make me fear that gm’s malady really is contagious.

    The Bush bashers are blind to the kind of animals we’re fighting in Iraq. The Bush lovers (are there any of those left?) are blind to the fact that maybe Bush’s reasons for going in were just a tad spurious.

    I see few people in the West who are still capable of arriving at a rational grasp of war as a concept. We’re predominantly pacifists now. That isn’t a good omen for our longevity.

    Inability to get a rational grasp of war a) gets us into crap like invading Iraq, and b) makes it a double-whammer because we then give up the cause before we can salvage the few goods that could be gotten from it.

    Oddly enough, reality may laugh last at both sides. What nobody is willing to “perceive” — except kwais, Michael Young (gasp!), and a few others — is that in spite of it all, Iraq may turn out to be a better place in the long run.

    Wouldn’t that be a cruel joke?

    Of course there are those who will say it wasn’t worth the price. It would have been far better if the Iraqi people had bled slowly, for decades or centuries under Saddams, rather than have it all out at once and make one generation pay the whole price.

    Freedom has never been had for free. Neither has anything else that was good.

    If invading Iraq was a “bad”, then the best we can hope for is to pull a “good” out of it via making Iraq a better place.

    If that can be done. And I haven’t seen the evidence yet showing that it can’t be. In fact, kwais’ on-location info gives me hope.

  104. btw, I don’t advocate making Iraq a better place just for altruistic reasons, though many here have argued against the US invasion for altruistic reasons (like wouldn’t the Iraqis be better off without us).

    The Iraqis seem to like being rid of Saddam.

    But it wouldn’t be good for us if the “insurgents” got control of all those oil wells. These are the same people who are using children for shields, among other attrocities.

    Defeating these “insurgents” is high on the list of US interests.

  105. gm, Man B would never go to jail. Do you need the analogy explained again?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.